Martin St. Louis vs. Dominik Hasek

Updated: April 19, 2006, 10:57 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

HERO -- MARTIN ST. LOUIS
There was a hint of déjà vu Saturday night as Martin St. Louis darted into the clear and scored the overtime winner against Carolina with 10.7 seconds left in the game. The goal marked the fourth straight game in which St. Louis, the defending NHL scoring champion and league MVP, scored a goal.

Before Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Washington, St. Louis had scored in 10 of his last 14 games. The 30-year-old forward isn't necessarily the team's best player. That place is reserved for Vincent Lecavalier.

Yet, in many ways, St. Louis is the team's heart, its soul.

Undrafted and basically unwanted until he arrived on the Lightning's doorstep in 2000, St. Louis is a shining example of the possibilities when he plays well. When he plays poorly, which has been the case on and off throughout this season, St. Louis is mercilessly self-critical, a reminder that results are everything.

The fact the native of Laval, Quebec, seems to have worked himself free of various funks and slumps on the eve of the playoffs might speak to a renaissance for the entire Lightning team.

VILLAIN -- DOMINIK HASEK
No matter how this plays out, Dominik Hasek is going to wear the black hat one way or another. If the mercurial, all-world goalie defies the skeptics and returns to action, he's likely going to end up skewering first-round opponent Tampa Bay.

When he's healthy, the 41-year-old netminder has been that good. The problem is Hasek hasn't been healthy since early in the Czech Republic's first game at the Torino Olympics. Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it?

Hasek is following the script many predicted would unfold when the Senators signed the six-time Vezina Trophy winner in the offseason. He hadn't played a full season in almost three years (he played 14 games for Detroit in 2003-04), raising concerns about his durability.

Which brings us to today. The Ottawa Sun reported more than a week ago that Hasek was done for the season. That was vigorously rebutted by GM John Muckler, who must be having a little déjà-yikes all over again having seen the Hasek act in Buffalo. In spite of all the rebutting, Hasek has deemed himself not quite ready for the playoffs. When he will be ready is anyone's guess, but whenever that is might be too late for the Sens.



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